If you already have your own Instagram account dedicated to “healthy” food, or if you intend to create one, then this post is for you. I only wish I’d listened sooner to the advice given to me about my old Instagram account. We’ve parted ways now, but it really did take me quite a while to let go of that bad boy. What seemed harmless to me at the time didn’t remain quite so harmless down the track… so let me give you a little history.
My Instagram account went through a few phases in its time… It started out as a general food account, with photos of homemade meals and yummy creations that people had baked; café feasts and tasty treats that I enjoyed with friends or family. I don’t know when the tipping point came, but it soon turned into a healthy food account. Pictures of oatmeal, steamed vegetables and weird superfoods (or should I say foods with super-marketing…) became the norm.
I began to meticulously arrange every meal to capture the perfect photo. I spent much of my time crouching down to find the perfect angle, turning my lunch plate a little to the left, relocating my breakfast bowl to a table with a more appealing surface. Of course it wasn’t long before the next tipping point came along. In fact, I was already in its grasp. Cue the diagnosis of the eating disorder.
My Instagram had expanded to around 8000 followers and I was chuffed. Within the Instagram community all was well, but my family life and relationships were suffering. At home our repertoire of meals was severely limited. My mum would become angry and agitated as I hovered around the stove and I became withdrawn and cranky; consumed by thoughts of food. At the time, I was following around 500 other accounts who all posted photos of ‘healthy’ food and followed some specific way of eating – Vegan, raw vegan, paleo, pescatarian, vegetarian, wholefood, IIFYM, gluten free, clean eating, sugar free… you name it! If it existed I knew about it and was influenced by it in some way or another.
Previously, I had no real concept of food as “good” or “bad” – it was just food and I ate what I liked and thought nothing of it. When I finished a meal I simply moved on. If I was still hungry, then I ate more. There were no calculations, no second guesses, no thoughts of “more of this” or “less of that”. I was known for my big appetite and quite a few people commented on how fast I would eat and how much I could fit in my belly. Perhaps on a subconscious level this played some part in what happened, but at the time it never really fazed me. Food was something that filled my belly and I enjoyed it. End of story.
With the creation of my new account food became something else. I began create strict rules for myself about what I thought I should be eating based on what was popping up on my Instagram feed. The people I followed weren’t eating cheese so that meant that I shouldn’t either. Cow’s milk would no longer do and was soon replaced by soy, which was then replaced by almond milk. White pasta, bread or rice? Forget about it! Perhaps I thought that if I ate like them I would become like them… right? Wrong. Of course I don’t blame these accounts for what happened in my own mind, and many of them had a healthy relationship with food… but many of them didn’t.
For someone whose mind is beginning to become preoccupied with healthy eating, certain captions were incredibly damaging, and yet, they became “gospel truth”. Maybe you’ve come across some yourself, the captions that say things like “Baked veggies (cooked without oil or salt!)” and “Went out for dinner tonight and ordered the yummiest chicken salad. I asked for it with no dressing and didn’t eat the bread. See, eating healthy when you’re out is easy!” While seemingly harmless, what these comments trigger in the mind is the idea that salt, oil, dressing and bread are all “bad” and that to be a “good” or “healthy” eater you should abstain from those things. How misguided and untrue this is! (Of course it’s ok to eat veggies without salt and oil, or ask for the dressing on the side, but to be scared of these things or incredibly strict about them is unhealthy in itself.)
At the start, the creation of my “healthy” eating account was just that – healthy! I had a balanced lifestyle and could enjoy treats when I wanted them. I didn’t think about food every second of the day and my parents were actually happy that I had begun to become more aware of the state of my health and wellbeing. But it didn’t take long for me to go too far the other way. I remember lying in bed one night and crying my heart out. My body was aching. I was cold all the time. I couldn’t stop thinking about food. I was absolutely miserable. I cried out to God to take it all away, to rid me of this obsession, of the pain.
This isn’t where the story ends, but I’ve decided to dedicate a whole post to the last stage of my Instagram journey: the recovery account. I hope this has been insightful and eye-opening for you. I only write these things with your best interests at heart. x